Adela Schwarzer Is Still Searching for Her Siblings…

Adela Schwarzer
Adela Schwarzer, born 1923

- She Saw Them in the Rzeszow Ghetto in Spring 1942 for the Last Time -

Adela Schwarzer, now living in Sweden, seems to be the only Holocaust survivor of her closest family. She survived seven Nazi slave labour camps, and at the final stage – Bergen-Belsen – was found dying on a heap of corpses, 23 kg weight. Adela says her determination to meet with her family gave her strength to survive all that. However, her search after the War has not brought any result - but not all forms have been tried yet. The meaning is to find any trace, any information about the fate of her four sisters and two brothers.

The Schwarzer Family in the Pre-War Kraków

Adela's story brings us to the Rzeszow ghetto, but it starts in Kraków, where she was born, in 13 Soltyka Street in 1923. Both her parents, however, were from Cieszanow, a small town close to the present Ukrainian border, and they moved to Krakow. Father, Mechel Schwarzer (b. 1888; also mentioned as Mechel Schwarz in Kraków census of 1921) settled there in 1912, and mother, Malka Beila Tennenbaum (b. 1890) moved there in 1917. She probably followed her father Mendel Tennenbaum (b. 1846).

Mechel Scwarzer

Malka Beila Tennenbaum Schwarzer

Mechel Schwarzer
born 1888

Malka Beila Tennenbaum
born 1890

Adela remembers her grandfather Mendel telling the story of his hasty escape from Cieszanow on a white horse. Maybe he was fleeing from the riots against owners which were stirred by the Russian revolution… The shock of 1917 was so great that later Mendel used to escape on his “white horse” even at… his sleep.

She remembers also a very pious uncle, Mechel's brother, who was coming from Grodzisko Dolne to visit them in Krakow, taking care of it that the metal pots were made really kosher by red-heated stones.

In Kraków the Schwarzer family also lived in 32 Miodowa Street (ca 1918 – 1922) and in 13 Wielicka Street (? – 1940). It is worth noticing that while Miodowa is the border line of the historical Jewish district, Soltyka is closer to the center of Kraków - at the back of the Jagellonian University's Medical Academy clinics - and it marks the Schwarzer family's step toward assimilation and social advancement. Moving to Podgórze in the years preceding the World War II may mean that the family got impoverished.

The family were poor but open and hospitable: in the house in Wielicka at the beginning of the War also a daughter to Mendel from his previous marriage, Chaja Tennenbaum, with her sons Haskel and Josef had meals, and they lived there for a short time though the living space was one room and a kitchen for the twelve persons.

Mechel Schwarzer was a tradesman and cooperated in business with Chaim Abend, a trade agent, who lived in the 11 Marquet Square at the centre of Kraków. They had a shop with furniture and antiques at 2 Mostowa in the Jewish District Kazimierz (at this address also the society Nossei Massu for support of orphans and widows had their seat and a prayer place). The business was also to restore old furniture. Chaim and Mechel employed three more persons: a cabinet-maker, an upholsterer and a selling woman, who was Gusta Schwarzer, Adela's eldest sister. Mechel often went for business trips to Katowice and Jaroslaw. Chaim Abend with his wife Mania (both from Jaroslaw) often stayed with the Schwarzers' family in Wielicka as they liked children but had none of their own.

Malka Beila Tennenbaum-Schwarzer was daughter to Adela Feder, third wife of Mendel Tennenbaum. Mechel Schwarzer was son to Izak and Gitla and he had sister Bronia and a brother of unknown name. Mendel died in September 1939 and was buried at the Jewish cemetery in Podgórze (in 1942 to be completely profaned and destroyed by the Nazis who used the ground as Plaszow forced labour camp territory, and all the matzevots as building material for it).

As for the parents' family: Bronia Schwarzer (herself a match-maker) married one Lieberman. One of their sons was Henryk Lieberman who married Lusia. They settled in Israel. One of Mendel Tennenbaum's grandsons, son to Malka Beila's half-brother, cousin to Adela, was Leibek (Leon) Eres-Tennenbaum. Leibek Tennenbaum was boss at Fromowic – big delicatessen store near Kazimierz which imported goods from all over the world. In 1972 he was still alive – living in Israel. His wife was Bina, his sons are Gershon and Mordechaj. His brother Izak Tennenbaum married before WW II and left for the USA, where he had a chocolate factory (he soon died, however).

Here are Adela's siblings: IZAK Schwarzer (b. 1919), GUSTA Schwarzer (b. 1921), HELENA Schwarzer (b. 1925), REGINA Schwarzer (b. 1926), SAMUEL Schwarzer (b. 1928), AMALJA Schwarzer (b. 1930). (Their photos follow at the end.)

Izak was a car mechanic, Gusta – a seller in Mechel's shop, Helena was a tailor: she had learned her profession at the secondary school of the Jewish society, “Ognisko Pracy” (“Work Society”, 7 Skawinska Boczna St.). Amalia was born at the Jewish Hospital at 8 Skawinska Boczna. She was so weak that doctors said she would not survive – and, yet, when Adela saw her youngest sister last, she was a teeneager.

Adela attended the Polish grammar school – “Szkola Ludowa” (“Folk School”) – close to their house at Wielicka Street. Later she was learning her profession at a Jewish modiste's shop at Florianska St. (Hela's school too). Once in 1930s she was to deliver hats within the neighbourhood of the university. She remembers being chased then by a pack of students who were shouting: “Jews to Palestine! Let's ‘have’ the Jewess!”

The Schwarzers under the Nazi Occupation in Kraków

With the Nazi occupation (which started in Krakow on September 6th, 1939) a number of restrictions were applied to Jewish inhabitants, which among others concerned moving around some areas of Krakow. The Jewish modiste's shop at Florianska was closed. Once, after visiting a forbidden area, Mechel was heavily beaten and all that had worth was taken away from him.

Soon, in November 1939, the Krakow Jews – under a death sentence – were demanded to wear a white band with a blue star of David on their arm. Adela remembers that all inhabitants had to queue for bread since 4 am throughout a major part of the day. And then it could happen that a Nazi came with dogs to expel all Jews from the queue. She herself was pushed out of a queue by the Nazis many times, being kicked and whipped or smashed with a stick.

Many times Adela was taken to forced labour such as washing, cleaning and cutting wood for the schutzpolizei who stationed at Robotnicza St. - close to the Schwarzers' house. Once (still by the end of 1939) the Nazis detained Adela for a longer time at their camp. Her father Mechel knew and was upset about it, fearing that she had been raped. But Mechel had a gift of conversation - he came to the policeman with a nice chat and was let in. The talk was about the Nazi's business in his heimat, which was a small bankrupt photo shop. Finally, the German excused himself for keeping Adela at work too long and he released her.

In winter 1939 father Mechel Schwarzer was forced by the Nazi to move to Rzeszow. The family was still registered at the Jewish Community in Kraków on August 28th (the surviving “Protokols” for Adela and Helena) and on September 8th (Izak) of 1940 (Jewish Historical Institute at Warsaw). The witnesses signed on Adela's and Helena's registration forms was Maria Rosen living in 13 Tarnowerstrasse and Sala Tenenbaum living in 43 Kalwaryjska St.; a witness to Izak was Adela.

Next year, at a succeeding stage of “purifying the old German city”, Kraków, the Schwarzers were forced out of the house in Wielicka St. with only what they could take in their hands; the rest of their property stayed there in their house with the son of their servant, Anna Urbaniak - Roman. And this is Adela's recollection of her farewell to her family house: their Polish neighbours are kicking their scanty luggage and shouting: “Away with them! Go to Palestine!” They actually moved with German transport to Rzeszów, to join Mechel. Later Regina made trips to their house in Kraków to bring clothes and other necessary things. This is owing to her servant Anna Urbaniak that Adela regained her family photos after the WW II, which were sent to her in Sweden

In the Occupied Rzeszów – until the Liquidation of the Ghetto

In Rzeszów they lived in 14 Galezowskiego Street (one level houses that exist no longer) with another Jewish family of four persons – together 13 persons in one room and a kitchen. The Schwarzer parents died in May 1941 - Malka from heart disease on 27th, Mechel from typhoid on 29th (see the unique Jewish death records in the State Archives and USC office in Rzeszów). Maybe their burial places could be identified in the new Jewish cemetery at Czekaj district, as the locations are known, but the map of the cemetery cannot be found at the moment… And a major part of the grave stones were used by the Nazi to pave Chopin Street

The children were moved to Szpitalna 1, part of what soon became the “smaller ghetto” (which was liquidated first). Adela remembers Nazis coming with dogs to the market place on Fridays. Their task was to catch some Jews – for the city to be “cleaned”, but they did not dare select the victims: they left it to the dogs. The Jew who was sniffed by the dog, was taken for elimination. As is known from history of the Holocaust in Rzeszów, its ghetto was closed on January 10th, 1942, with 12,5 thousand Rzeszów Jews, who in June were joined by a similar number of Jews from the vicinity. The 19 years' old Adela was included in a forced labour group who worked at the local railway station. Her work was to unload wagons with coal, wood and sand. She also dug ditches, helping one tall woman, Jewish professor who could not manage with her job.

In the spring 1942 Adela together with her forced labour group was sent by the Nazi to work at Biesiadka camp. SHE NEVER SAW HER SISTERS AND BROTHERS AGAIN. A gleam of hope is sustained in Adela because some women from Rzeszow who came to Czestochowa labour camp told her that her youngest sister Amalia was hidden in a litter-box from the Nazi during the deportations.

What happened in Rzeszów in the succeeding months is supposed to be the climax and focus of this story because then the fates of the Schwarzer siblings were determined, and of them we know nothing. Various sources give varying numbers and places of exterminations.

Here is knowledge that all of them would agree about: the Jews of Rzeszów and those brought to the Rzeszów ghetto from the surroundings were exterminated following a number of deportations which started in July 1942 (Tuesday 6/7th: the smaller, southern ghetto; Thursday 10th, Monday 14th: Kopernik St., Tannenbaum St., elderly people and the Jewish hospital; Friday 19th). All deported groups were marched to the Staroniwa railway station at Rzeszów. From there they reached two possible destinies: they were either murdered at the Belzec death camp or at the Forest near Glogów Malopolski (some call it Rudna Forest).

The number given for the Jews killed at Belzec in the July action is 14,000. In his unique diary Stanislaw Kotula writes that the Glogów Forest was place of extermination of mainly elderly and sick Jews. The number given for those victims varies from 2 to 6 thousand.

On August 7th the remaining women with the children were gathered (by a Nazi deceit) and brought to Pelkina, and later to Belzec (more than 1000). On November 15th 1942 there was another extermination transport to Belzec taking life of 2000 Jews. It left ca 3000 Jews in the southern ghetto, which now became divided into ghetto A east to Baldachowska St. with forced labour workers, and ghetto B west to Baldachowska, called by the prisoners schmeltzgetto (“melting ghetto”) – ie ghetto for Jews designated to be killed.

The latter were all taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau and perished in the gas chambers in September 1943. Between September 1943 and July 1944 the force labour prisoners were also sent to Auschwitz, some of them escaped and hid until the liberation, some survived Auschwitz. Some of them, after being moved to Szebnie forced labour camp in September 1943, were shot at Dobrucowa forest.

The historical description allows for a hypothesis that the older of the Schwarzer siblings could be selected for forced labour, just as Adela, which gave a better chance of survival. Especially the final group of ghetto A had successful escapes. The children could escape or were hidden – and the world knows of many such miracle stories...

May Izak, Gusta, Helena, Regina, and the youngest Samuel (who was 14 in 1942) and Amalia (who was 12 in 1942) – have had more luck than the 6 million Jews murdered at the Shoah?

Adela Schwarzer's Story of Her Work at the Nazi Forced Labour Camps

At Biesiadka Adela was among the prisoners who were commanded to cut down the woods. Adela remembers: - “My manager was a small fat German who always wore civil clothes, a little green hat with a feather on his head. When we arrived, we found there were a lot of vermin, and we became all covered with insects all over our bodies. To live, we had to eat a kind of potato soup. There was a lot of sand in it. We were guarded by volksdeutschers, a Polish man and a Ukrainian. If we tried to straighten up our backs, we were battered with a stick. When I lost consciousness once, I had to be lying on the ground until I regained consciousness by myself. No one was allowed to help me. A number of times I saw sick people who had to dig their own graves. After that they were shot...”

Since February 1943 she stayed at the forced labour camp at Huta Komorowska. -“There I also had to cut down woods. I did not have proper clothes, so my hands and feet were frozen. We survived on garbage and potato peels, and a lot of similar stuff. The barracks were full of vermin – due to this we suffered day and night; fight with the insects was really exhaustive. There were no beds there, we slept on a very cold floor. I got sick with typhoid. My health was still very bad, when I was forced to do my physical work as usual. The food was very, very bad. During the nights we had to be standing outside the barracks in a roll call for many hours. During that time the kapo threatened to shoot us or send us away. He beat us with his gun.”

Next Adela was sent to the Plaszow camp at Kraków. The prisoners wore clothes with numbers. Their work was sowing buttons to Nazi uniforms. The succeeding camp - since October 1943 - was Skarzysko-Kamienna, where they had to work in an ammunition factory. Adela was compelled to work at a drilling machine for a 12 hours' shift. The work was very straining and because of exhaustion she once fell asleep at a machine, and was woken up by a volksdeutsch woman who poured water on her. They were fed only once a day, and during the meal they had to stand at the machines. During that work Adela was terribly wounded by the machine. She was operated; a blood infection followed. After the operation the wound was not sown up, with the result that up till now the hurt finger has not been working properly.

Since August 1944 Adela was working at Czestochowa, at another ammunition factory. The boss of her shift was a German, one Winter. She was beaten up many times there. “They beat me even because of my being sick in the stomach and leaving for toilet. Once a machine got broken, when I was operating it. I was taken to the guard - Herr Winter was also there. They laid me on a table and Winter ordered a man to whip me until my whole body was blue. When this molesting was over, I was compelled to go and thank Winter that he had been so kind and had not given me more hits.”

At the Czestochowa camp Adela was trying an escape. She managed to get out of the camp and reach some peasants. She bought bread from them for the golden ring she had in her dress sown to it for that occasion. But she came back to the labour camp and shared the bread with her companions. She wouldn’t know how to survive outside…

Finally, in January 1945 (when the Red Army was close), the time came for the last camp - Bergen-Belsen. -“First, we were sent to Buchenwald by a freight train - without windows or toilet, without food – and this lasted for a number of days. We were in a really bad condition when we reached Buchenwald. There we changed wagons, and they sent us to Bergen-Belsen. When we arrived, we had to be queuing for inspection for many hours. In the camp there was very little to eat and for the last period hardly any water. For a short time, I was taken to cutting woods. If we didn’t do our work as expected, we were beaten.”


After the Liberation – the Wonderful Survival and the Never-Ending Search

-“When we were liberated by the Allied Forces in April 1945, I was in such a bad condition that I didn’t know what was happening to me or around.” Indeed, she was thrown on a mount of dead people, and she really owes her life to a her Jewish co-prisoner, Betty (now married Goldberg, living in Israel), who told about her to the British troops. Adela was taken to 81 BR General Hospital. When she got better, she was sent from the transit centre in Lubeck, Germany, to Sweden by the Swedish Red Cross (Folke Bernadotte's “white buses”) on the ship SS “Ronnkaer”, on July 16th, 1945. She arrived in Malmö on the next day.

In Malmö the Swedish Red Cross considered her so weak that they took her in for quarantine in a hospital for four weeks. Later the whole group of Bergen-Belsen survivors were sent to Baggĺ as convalescents. They were offered work at ASEA (now ABB) in Västerĺs, which they accepted with deeply felt joy.

Since that time Adela Schwarzer has been searching for her brothers and sisters - without success but never loosing hope, which “dies last”… Memory of them sustained her through all that horrible and has been coming back to her day and night ever since. These are Izak, Gusta, Helena, Regina, Samuel and Amalia Schwarzer.

Izak Schwarzer

Helena Schwarzer

Izak Schwarzer
born 1919

Gusta Schwarzer
born 1921

Helena Schwarzer
born 1925

 

 

 

Regina Schwarzer

Samuel Schwarzer

Amalia Schwarzer

Regina Schwarzer
born 1926

Samuel Schwarzer
born 1928

Amalia Schwarzer
born 1930

We – the Swedish and Polish family of Adela Schwarzer – will never stop searching until a positive or negative answer is given us.

Written by Violetta Reder on the basis of bits and pieces of Adela Schwarzer's recollections put down by her husband Gösta and son Jan, and of the authors' own contacts with Adela

Contact information: adelaschwarzer "at" hotmail.com

Sources:
1. BIEBERSTEIN Aleksander, Zaglada Zydów w Krakowie (The Shoah in Kraków) Kraków 1985. 2. DUDA Eugeniusz, The Jews of Kraków, Kraków 1999.
3. KOTULA Stanislaw, Losy Zydów rzeszowskich 1939-1944. Kronika tamtych dni (The Fates of the Rzeszów Jews. A Chronicle of those Days), Rzeszów 1999.
4. PIECH Stanislaw, W cieniu Kosciolów i synagog. Zycie religijne miedzywojennego Krakowa 1918-1939 (In the Shadow of Churches and Synagogues. Religious Life of Kraków between the Wars 1918-1939), Kraków 1999.
5. Encyclopedia of the Holocaust,
New York 1990 after: www.motl.wiesenthal.com

 

 

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Last updated on March 23rd, 2004